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Theater review, 'Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays' at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center

May 13, 2011 |  9:00 am

StandingOnCeremony5.9_2NC Elegant craft weds political urgency in "Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays" at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center. This deft program of one-acts by noted American playwrights addresses marriage equality with remarkable purpose.

Conceived and directed by Brian Shnipper, "Standing" has gone from a one-night El Portal Theatre offering in 2009 to a burgeoning phenomenon. Performed in staged-reading mode by a rotating celebrity cast, its subject-to-change content is key. At the reviewed performance, Jordan Harrison's "The Revision" -- rebooting wedding vows to mirror current limitations -- was the ticking opener.  In "This Flight Tonight," Wendy MacLeod gives her Iowa-bound female pair a convincing idiom that trumps gender specifics.

"On Facebook" by Doug Wright is an unsparing transcription derived from an actual online debate.  Nuanced subtext drives Jeffrey Hatcher's "White Marriage" -- straight couple discusses the husband's "gay" sense of humor -- while Joe Keenan's "This Marriage is Saved" -- disgraced minister, delirious wife, dubious interviewer -- is blunt satire.

A peak is Neil LaBute's "Strange Fruit," its dual accounts by partners-since-college swerving from romance to tragedy. "The Gay Agenda" finds Paul Rudnick riotously charting a well-intended family-values maven's enervated stance. Moisés Kaufman's moving "London Mosquitoes" carries an entire pocket gay history within its memorial service eulogy; José Rivera's "Pablo and Andrew at the Altar of Words" makes a gorgeously lyrical finale.

On opening night, the cast was Julie Hagerty, Jay Harrington, Rachael Harris, Peri Gilpin, Peter Paige and John Rubinstein, all wonderful. Upcoming artists include Jillian Armenante, John Glover, Wendie Malick, Paul McCrane and Cheri Oteri, among many. A portion of all proceeds supports the center's Vote for Equality program, and what sets "Standing" apart is how eloquently it speaks to more than gay marriage proponents -- a vital achievement, indeed.

-- David C. Nichols

"Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays," L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Renberg Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Place, L.A. 8 p.m. Mondays. Ends June 27. $30-$50. (323) 860-7300 or Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Photo: Peter Paige (left), John Rubinstein and Rachael Harris. Credit: Chuck Green.